New York Campaign for Early Literacy members speak on the importance of early literacy

Feb 6, 2024 | Blog

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On Tuesday, January 30, The Education Trust–New York launched the New York Campaign for Early Literacy, a statewide movement of more than 80 organizations and individuals to improve student reading outcomes. The Campaign, a natural next step in our work on early literacy, seeks policy changes at the state and local levels that promote the use of evidence-based instruction aligned with the science of reading.

Several Campaign members and state leaders joined us at the New York State Capitol calling out the need for urgent action while acknowledging progress across the state, such as Governor Hochul’s recent ‘Back to Basics’ proposal and the Right to Read bill up for consideration this legislative session. To that end, speakers also emphasized more can be done in alignment with the Campaign’s policy priorities.

Speakers included, in the following order:

  • Jeff Smink, Interim Executive Director, Ed Trust–NY kicked off the event by announcing the Campaign, which is devised from the principle that literacy is a civil right, and reinforcing that New York State’s early literacy crisis is solvable: “Imagine the amazing things that our children will accomplish when thousands more are provided with the right to read.”
  • Assemblymember Robert Carroll spoke about his experiences learning to read as a young student, later being diagnosed with dyslexia. “We have a generation of children not getting the fundamental skills, and that’s why I’ve introduced the Right to Read Act. It’s not just about phonics. It’s about the five pillars of literacy … it’s about teacher training and professional development.”
  • Aníbal Soler, Superintendent, Schenectady City Schools discussed how they have garnered support for evidence-based instruction from educators and the community. “Our effort is not merely an initiative. It is systematic, permeating every classroom in our district. Literacy can no longer be confined to just the English classroom. It is a thread woven into the fabric of our entire educational system.”
  • Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi spoke to the importance of early literacy in the beginning years and how it can eliminate adverse childhood experiences through ‘serve and return’ interactions between caregiver and infant: “By boosting early literacy, you are preventing childhood trauma.”
  • Sydni-Sophia Russell, Alumni Coordinator & Former Tutor, Read Alliance spoke about her experience as a tutor with Read Alliance, which provides young students, such as Josiah, with instruction based on the science of reading through near-peer tutoring. “Josiah went from looking forward to earning a few of his favorite stickers to the feeling that reading confidently gave him.”
  • Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon recounted her time as a former preschool teacher in a deaf school, the importance of language development in the early years, and how future teachers must be trained in the science of reading. “If we can teach [children with dyslexia] how to read using proven methods, why would we not do it for everybody?”
  • Senator Shelley Mayer expressed her excitement for the campaign and discussed her experience working with local nonprofits that encourage reading at home. She voiced how organizations and our education system need to come together to make literacy a priority. “Thank you for being here and standing up for young people, particularly in our communities of color.”
  • Andre Eaton, New York State Director, ParentChild+ spoke to the importance of a holistic early literacy approach that provides primary caregivers with the skills and materials that support children’s language development at home. “We support the goal of enhancing support for building children’s reading skills as the key to educational success so that we can stop these educational injustices.”
  • Kate Gutwillig, NYC special education teacher, and Educators for Excellence–New York member spoke about her experience as an educator, as well as her advocacy as an E4E member to help make the NYC Reads program a reality. She also reinforced the need for even more funding for educator professional development aligned with the science of reading. “Now it’s time to spend the money and work on things that are working for everyone.”
  • Trudy Morgan Tetteh, Policy Director, NYS Network for Youth Success spoke about how crucial after-school and expanded learning is for children’s literacy development. “Schools and families should not in isolation address the literacy challenge alone. After-school, summer, and expanded learning programs can be ideal partners in providing high-quality early literacy support.”
  • Ashara Baker, New York State Director of the National Parents Union closed out the event by illustrating the challenges and hope that lie ahead. “Like any parent, we are all making a conscious effort to do right by our children. Some may opt-out and attend certain districts, while others will have additional resources to provide. I’m here today to elevate those experiences and the voices and that pain.”
  • Jenn O’Connor, Director of Partnerships and Early Childhood Policy, Ed Trust–NY reinforced the solutions that exist to improve reading outcomes in New York State. “We’re asking today for support across the state in early literacy. We hope that more interested in investing in New Yorkers, parents, teachers, and children will become members of the New York State Campaign for Early Literacy.”

Visit to learn more about the Campaign’s work and priorities.